Aug 7 2017 | By More

★★★★☆  Dark and inventive

Festival Theatre: Sat 5/Sun 6 Aug 2017
Review by Dylan Taylor

Mark-Anthony Turnage’s operatic version of Greek, based on Steven Berkoff’s play, brings dark humour to the Festival Theatre as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Creatively staged by Opera Ventures and the Scottish Opera, Greek’s retelling of the Oedipus myth moves the action from Ancient Greece to modern north London.

Allison Cook and Alex Otterburn. Pic: Jane Hobson.

Oedipus is represented by a tracksuit-wearing Eddy, tired of wasting his time among his usual crew of lowlifes. Profane and politically incorrect, Eddy is given grandeur by Alex Otterburn who uses his powerful voice to bring both humour and pathos to his role.

Like the original tragedy by Sophocles, the action follows Eddy after he has been told by his parents of a prophecy: he will eventually kill his own father and marry his mother. A fortune-teller here acts as oracle, a touch which cheekily adapts the Greek elements to fit with modern sensibilities.

Several other adapted elements add to this more topical atmosphere of the opera. Ketchup is used in place of blood, Heinz beans and recent newspaper pages are incorporated, and a plague which sweeps through the city seems to winkingly call to mind the decadence of popular culture.

Director Joe Hill-Gibbins manages to bring a poignancy to the slang-laced subject matter that at times matches that of the original narrative. His placements of Susan Bullock, Allison Cook, and Andrew Shore in their various roles bring out the full symbolic possibilities of Johannes Schutz’s minimalistic set design.

Susan Bullock and Andrew Shore. Pic: Jane Hobson

Alex Lowde’s wryly cartoonish costuming, along with Matthew Richardson’s inventive use of light and shadow, intensifies the opera’s dark, and at times farcical, atmosphere.

One of this staging’s most interesting elements is the use of a giant white screen which acts as the main set piece. By rotating throughout the play, the screen is able to give the impression that the scenery and locations have changed, even when the surroundings look exactly the same. It also acts as a projection screen for the unsettling video designs of Dick Straker, to great effect.

Stuart Stratford’s orchestra admirably bring out the sustained tension of Turnage’s score and Steven Berkoff’s libretto. Bullock and Cook’s singing is solid throughout, and Shore brings a particular strength to the production.

Greek is, at times, an eerie, even disturbing, work. Its intensity may prove difficult for those more at home with Mozart or Puccini.

For those familiar with the atmosphere of the original source material, this production’s playful mixing of the old and the new is not entirely irreverent. It is, for the most part, able to successfully straddle the line between both the world of ancient Greece and the world of modern London.

Running time: 1hr 15mins (without interval)
Part of the Edinburgh International Festival
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Saturday 5/Sunday 6 August 2017
Various times, run ended.
Details at:
Scottish Opera:

The production will play Glasgow in February 2018:
Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 3QA
Friday 2/Saturday 3 February 2018
Evenings: 7.15pm.
Tickets booking:

A CD and DVD of Greek are available to buy from Amazon. Click on the images for details:


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